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OFF MAIN STREET

On the rebound with Pataki

It was Gov. Pataki's first appearance at The Buffalo News since winning the election.

"I am here for one reason -- that is to gloat," Pataki said, leaving some in the room wondering if the new governor was referring to The News' editorial endorsement of Mario Cuomo.

Pataki was talking basketball.

His hometown team -- Peekskill High -- had just beaten Buffalo Traditional on the court.

"I wasn't going to come to Buffalo," the governor said, "but after a victory like that, how can I not?"

And here we thought the governor had developed a taste for Buffalo wings and weck.

Somewhere in the swamps of Jersey

It was during the same visit that Pataki let feelings about one of New York's neighbors show through.

Pataki is very impressed with Gov. Christie Whitman's tax-cutting policies, but he doesn't seem to think much about the rest of New Jersey.

"The last three months, New Jersey has created new jobs at three times the rate of New York," Pataki said.

It must be the economic climate, Pataki surmised.

"Would you rather be in the swamp of New Jersey, or would you rather be in New York?" he asked.

Swamp of Jersey. Didn't New Jersey's own Bruce Springsteen sing about that?

"Springsteen left," Pataki said, referring to the rock star's mid-1980s move to California from Jersey.

How about Bison Park?

So now that Pilot Air Freight lost its naming rights at the ballpark, what do we call the former Pilot Field?

"The city told us to call it Buffalo's Downtown Ballpark," said Bisons media relations manager John Isherwood.

Not exactly one of the catchier names in Triple-A ball. Will it even fit on a T-shirt? Hopefully the next company that buys the naming rights will have a zippier name. Word is four local companies have expressed interest so far.

New career opportunity

For 20 years, Peter Christ wore a Town of Tonawanda police badge.

Now, he's appearing in High Times magazine.

In fact, Christ is honored as "Freedom Fighter of the Month" in the April issue of the magazine aimed at marijuana-smoking crowds.

Guess that pretty much explains what Christ (a devoted atheist whose name is pronounced Kris) has been doing since leaving the force in 1989.

The retired police captain now lives outside Syracuse and is active in the drug legalization movement, speaking up for drug legalization every chance he gets. It's what he always wanted to do. In fact, Christ said he became a cop so he could retire in 20 years and preach drug legalization.

"Drug legalization won't resolve the drug problem, but it will make a huge dent in the crime problem," Christ argues.

Christ, 48, says he never buys or sells drugs, but admits he's taken a toke here and there, and even did some cocaine in past years -- including when he was a police officer.

Still, he says, as a cop, he didn't shy from drug arrests.

"It was my job," he said. "I feel a little bit like a Nazi after the war. But I knew what I wanted. Sometimes you give up short-term good for long-term goals."

A warm-weather hairdo

Hey, what's that on Vince Sorrentino's head?

Word around the political circles is that the Erie County Democratic Party chief is sporting a new do, going au naturel -- in other words, he's shed his toupee

Yup, Sorrentino's letting his bald spots shine.

And guess what, he looks better this way than when he was wearing that toupee.

Pen mightier than the shield

Police Commissioner R. Gil Kerlikowske's attempt to censor the "Black & Blue Line," the department's underground newspaper, has kept him a prime target of the satirical publication.

Some months after Kerlikowske issued an order prohibiting its "distribution, display and reproduction," an issue emerged last week. Demand for copies was high, but instead of clandestinely running off extra issues on the department's copy machines, officers were urged to make a trip to Kinkos.

The top story chronicles a journey of enlightenment by Kerlikowske and Mayor Masiello, in search of solutions to the city's fiscal problems. Kerlikowske is portrayed as a space alien, while hizzoner is suited up in a basketball uniform.

Off Main Street was written by Sue Schulman with contributions from Phil Fairbanks, Janice Habuda, Susan LoTempio and Jon Sorensen.

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